Saturday, June 11, 2011

Operations Critical Projects?

What are "Operational Critical" projects? They are the most important projects that you'll ever "not" manage. That sounds like a mis-statement, because you do actually manage operational critical projects... often at the expense of your planned projects.

So, the sky has fallen, and you need to "circle the wagons", "round up the troops" and "take the hill." Why would you do this at the expense of your projects? There are a number of reasons why you would do this. You may have discovered a critical issue that would have a major impact on your business, your reputation, or that is critical because of some legal issue. DON'T BE A DOLT - GO FIX IT!

Yes, your project plans are important, and you must schedule to achieve every deadline. This would not be prudent if you were overlooking something which has major implications to your business. Remember in a prior post... be honest... open... and accept responsibility for any projects that you must postpone. Postpone the projects, and address the issue.

Manage the process for the operational critical project. It is the MOST critical project you have to manage. Give it your first priority, then assign available resources to your other projects, in order of priority. Priority? Yes, your projects need prioritized. Nobody wants the number 2 project, and they'll tell you they are all number one. I'll do another post on this... here's a trick... ask them which project they can postpone if you don't have resources each time you add new projects. The one that never get's postponed... it's really their top priority. It's a little trickier when you serve multiple customers, but the same concept applies.

Here's a few more thoughts...
  1. Give constant updates... over... over... over communicate. I cannot stress enough the critical nature of open, honest, frequent communications.
  2. Manage the project as if your job depends on it... it probably does, or at least your reputation and next raise will get impacted if you drop the ball on operational critical issues.
  3. Operational critical issues could be critical because of their nature... risk... or timing necessary to resolve the issues positively.
  4. Look outside the box for ways to help solve the operational critical issue, and turn every rock necessary to solve the operational critical issue. It could be a crashed system, broken manufacturing equipment, a rush order from your largest customer, or a data integrity issue.
  5. Don't expect recognition... you're fixing a problem... that probably should not have occurred... or one at least that your organization wished it could forget.
  6. Create realistic timelines... nobody wants to see a plan for a critical project that's destined to fail from being too aggressive. Be realistic... and stay on top of the project.
  7. Reset expectations when it's necessary. Don't wait too long and hope for a miracle.
  8. Keep a bulleted list on tasks, and cross off the successes.
I don't know of too many people who want to manage a crisis. The key is to manage the crisis, learning from it, and then reset expectations if there is insufficient slack to recover from diverted resources.

You should always expect to have some slack in your schedule to accomplish difficult tasks when they arise... that are unplanned. Unless there is a loss of resources, no person wants to hear why you've postponed most project you manage for some excuse or the other. That's not a legitimate reason... that's poor planning, regardless of the reason. Plan for what's reasonable, and realistic for YOUR environment. What ever you do, plan well... and don't plan to "create" a crisis.

It may rain today... but the sun will come out tomorrow.

Happy project planning!!!